Update: 2 Skydive Superior Planes Collide, 1 Pilot Identified

Posted at: 11/02/2013 6:53 PM
Updated at: 11/03/2013 11:01 PM
By: Emily Haavik and Laurie Stribling

Photo: Shannon Sturm

Authorities said two planes collided in the air Saturday night.

The planes were carrying nine skydivers up to do a formation jump when they collided. All the jumpers are from the Twin Ports area and experienced skydivers, according to a Skydive Superior spokesperson.

"Just as we climbed out getting ready to leave, the planes collided," Instructor Mike Robinson said. "The trail plane came over the top and hit the lead plane."

When the crash happened, four skydivers were standing on the outside step of the lead plane. The trail plane was holding five skydivers. Two were in the back of the plane and three were on the outside step when the planes crashed.

Robinson said since most the jumpers were standing on the outside of the plane during the crash everyone was able to escape the disaster safely. They all parachuted to safety.

Robinson said the lead plane was completely destroyed, breaking into three fiery pieces. He said the fuselage landed at the Head of the Lakes Fairgrounds in Superior. That pilot was able to escape, according to Robinson.

"He's got to get his seatbelt off, he's got to get out the door and deploy the parachute, which he did an amazing job on," Robinson said. "The other pilot did an amazing job to land that aircraft."

The pilot of the lead plane had minor injuries, according to Robinson. A Skydive Superior spokesperson said that pilot was released from the hospital.

The pilot of the trail plane was able to land the plane without injury.

"Being a pilot, the quote is typically '99 percent boredom followed by one second of terror every time you go flying'," skydiver Daniel Chandler said.

Chandler was one of the nine skydivers involved, but is also a pilot for Skydive Superior.

The owner of Skydive Superior said the pilot of the lead plane did not want his name released until the FAA investigation is over. The owner said Blake Wedan of Superior was the pilot of the trail plane.

"Very lucky for the circumstance that we were all in," Robinson said. "We had to avoid the debris in the air of the planes in free fall. We could see the burning airplane come apart into at least three pieces."

The crash was even heard from people on the ground in Superior.

"I was just inside working and all of a sudden there was this really weird noise," witness Wayne Barnard said. "It was kind of just like a 'boom'."

The FAA was in Superior Sunday. Superior Police said the investigation is now in their hands. Results of that investigation will not be available for several weeks or months, according to a FAA spokesperson.